KUCHING: The composition of Parliament must be balanced between Peninsular Malaysia, Sarawak and Sabah to ensure that the rights of both Borneo states are safeguarded, says Tan Sri Abang Johari Tun Openg.

The Sarawak Premier said the Malaysia Agreement 1963 (MA63) Special Council recently discussed increasing the number of parliamentary seats for Sarawak and Sabah to 35% of all seats in Parliament.

He said there was currently an unhealthy imbalance in Parliament as Sarawak and Sabah only had 56 out of the 222 seats, or 25%.

“We in Sarawak and Sabah have to ensure that our rights and privileges are always protected in Parliament and that the wants of some federal leaders are not imposed upon us, to our detriment and loss.

“Some of our rights have been eroded in the last 59 years because we did not have the power to effectively object in Parliament to laws that were unintentionally or purposely enacted to infringe our rights.

“We only want our rights back, no more, no less,” he said at the state-level Malaysia Day celebration in Bintulu on Friday (Sept 16) night.

Abang Johari said although the size of representation in Parliament for Singapore, Sabah and Sarawak was not explicitly expressed in MA63, the Inter-Governmental Committee (IGC) had given assurance that the interests of these territories were to be protected at all times.

“Parliamentary representation cannot be reduced but must be proportionate,” he said.

He also said Sarawak could have more parliamentary seats despite its small population, as constituency creation was not purely based on population size.

“Should a seat be considered only on population size, remote places with scattered populations like Ulu Baram, Belaga and Ulu Rajang would not merit representation, which is not the case as we know it,” he added.

The celebration in Bintulu was graced by Sarawak Yang di-Pertua Negeri Tun Abdul Taib Mahmud and his wife Toh Puan Raghad Kurdi Taib, along with state dignitaries.

Highlights included performances by local and national singers such as Datuk M. Nasir, traditional dances showcasing the rich culture of the Bintulu people and a medley of patriotic songs by the Sarawak Arts Council’s D’Voices Choir.